From custom knives to production blades, it seems like anyone and everyone making knives has started using the “it” steel of 2023: MagnaCut. And for good reason! MagnaCut is a premium stainless steel that has high scores in corrosion, abrasion resistance, and overall toughness.
Throughout this year, I’ve had the opportunity to test a bunch of folding knives that employ this “breakthrough” steel. But I hadn’t tested out a fixed blade — until Demko Knives sent me its FreeReign.
The FreeReign is a full-tang, tactical bushcraft-style knife that has been available in AUS-10 steel from Demko for a few years now. That version comes in both Tanto and Drop Point blade styles. The MagnaCut version, available only in Drop Point, came out in May and quickly sold out — again, for good reason!
I was lucky enough to spend the summer with this lightweight and durable dandy of a knife, and I am happy to share my thoughts and feelings about it after thorough testing.
In short: I didn’t realize how much MagnaCut can really do until Demko Knives used it in the FreeReign. While I don’t think it’s the best steel on the market today, this knife proves that MagnaCut might just be the best EDC steel out there.
- OAL 9.875”
- Blade length 5”
- Blade steel MagnaCut
- Blade shape Drop Point
- Grind Flat
- Hardness 63
- Sheath Injection-molded plastic
- Weight 6.9 oz. (10.8 oz. with sheath)
- Price $199
- Full tang, MagnaCut steel construction
- Wicked grippy handle for heightened performance
- The sheath looks awesome
- Can’t start a fire with it
- It’s sold out everywhere
Demko FreeReign MagnaCut: Review
Design and Features
The Demko FreeReign is nearly 10 inches of stainless steel, full-tang excellence. Coming in at 6.9 ounces and sporting a 5-inch blade, the FreeReign is both lightweight and balanced. It has a rubberized handle for excellent grip, and the tang is exposed at the butt of the knife for hammering and smashing.
The FreeReign comes with an ambidextrous, injection-molded plastic sheath. The design allows it to be worn on a belt, but the sheath also has multiple sets of mounting points so that it can be lashed down, or to accommodate added accessories.
I wouldn’t pigeonhole the FreeReign into being just a bushcraft knife. That’s a bad thing; at 9.875 inches long and with a 5-inch blade, this knife is about as big as it can be to fall into that category. Overall, the FreeReign’s DNA lends it to be more of a tactical knife.
That said, between you, me, and the trees — I’ve never been much for categories when it comes to fixed-blade knives. I think a knife of this ilk can provide you with years of reliability in a multitude of situations.
So, don’t get hung up on categories. If you find something that suits your needs, then that’s your knife.
It’s hard to ignore how lightweight the FreeReign is. At almost 10 inches in total length, the FreeReign stands as a bit of an anomaly at sub-7 ounces. But that’s why I find that it blurs the lines between bushcraft and tactical.
In my mind, I consider bushcraft knives to be smaller and lighter weight, whereas tactical knives have always been larger and heavier. In truth, however, bushcraft knives often require heft for brute-force tasks, and tactical knives typically require a good degree of portability and quick-handling.
Maybe the FreeReign is a tactical bushcraft knife? The style of the knife itself has a slight curve that peaks at the hilt. I thought it was a trick of the eye, but it’s really there. Overall, I really like the presentation here.
Also, the whole thing is stonewashed — and I don’t mean just a little bit. This is an aggressive and attractive stonewash that enhances the form and will improve the function.
The sheath for the FreeReign is a real trip, too. In place of the common Kydex sheath stands a stylized, injection-molded sheath, black with green accents that match the color of the knife handle. Engraved into the sheath itself is a topo design with the Demko name.
The one aspect about which I’m lukewarm is the nylon belt loop. It’s common and everyone has been using it for years. I would like to see a material that’s less susceptible to getting slashed and ruined.
In the Field
Throughout the summer, I used the FreeReign for pretty much everything I could think of. I did some meal prep at home and out in the woods. I batoned it for kindling and used it to trim branches on the trail.
There were times when I relied on it and wore it on my belt, and other times when I strapped it to my pack and used it primarily at camp. My experiences with it were beyond what I would expect from a knife like this. That’s all due in part to it being lightweight, balanced, and made from MagnaCut.
Light weight can pay off in spades on a knife like this. The FreeReign is a “do-it-all” style knife: dig a hole with it, chop kindling, and prepare dinner. Hunters could also use it to skin a deer, but I wasn’t out there getting that true grit.
Being light and balanced is great for those extended periods of effort, so you don’t get worn out quickly.
By feel, MagnaCut steel isn’t skin-popping sharp. But that doesn’t mean it can’t shave and slice easily. And that includes your skin.
The FreeReign allowed me to easily prep chicken, peppers, and onions for some nice trailside fajitas. I could slice the chicken nice and thin so that when combined with the peppers and onions, the result was like a Chicken Philly Fajita. I love when a knife allows you to get really specific with tasks — particularly Gordan Ramsay-level chef work in the outdoors.
The only thing it didn’t really excel at was lighting a fire. I tried multiple ferro rods on the MagnaCut steel, even on the blade edge — in my book, a major party foul — and I couldn’t get the knife to throw a spark.
Some purists believe this owes to the knife being stainless, but I disagree. Maybe it’s MagnaCut-specific? As of right now, I can’t be certain. But this wasn’t a deal breaker by any means.
Demko FreeReign (MagnaCut): Conclusion
Demko knives has been climbing the charts for a few years now. Its AD20.5 folder, which shows off the brand’s Shark Lock locking mechanism, has been making waves and turning heads.
That said, a knife like the FreeReign could get lost in the pile of similar, fixed-blade belt knives on the market today — that is, until you use it.
MagnaCut steel isn’t my favorite steel, but I like it on the FreeReign. In my expert opinion, the few steels that outshine it are far and away better steels. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a fantastic EDC steel. In fact, it’s probably the best steel around for everyday use, and the FreeReign exemplifies that.
If you’re looking for a reliable outdoor knife that you can beat the snot out of, for less than $200, Demko’s MagnaCut version of the FreeReign knife will get the job done. It’s easy to carry, easy to use, and requires very little maintenance to keep doing what it does best for years to come.